Artists keep themselves occupied with a day of live action

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Some have walked past the Occupy occupation outside St Paul’s Cathedral admiring the dedication of the protesters who first arrived last October. Others have seen them as an unslightly blot on one of London’s most famous buildings. When Adam Young had a wander through the tents and banners, he was inspired to stage his own occupation.

Young’s sit-in will, however, be slightly different. For a start, it will take place at St Patrick’s Studio on the outskirts of Leeds city centre. It will last just 24 hours and by the end those taking part hope not to have brought an end to capitalism, but have created a series of works of art.

Capturing the spirit of art happenings of 1960s London, New York in the 1970s and with a nod to John and Yoko’s bed-in of 1969, visitors, who are encouraged to stay for the full duration, can expect to see work in staircases, foyers, meeting rooms and even the building’s lifts.

“It’s unusual art in unusual spaces, that was what we wanted to aim for with this event,” says Young, who is organising the event along with Becki Griffiths.Both are recent graduates of Leeds Met Arts Events Performance course, thought to be the first of its kind in Europe, which teaches students about work in different media. After graduating in June last year, they set up the artist collective Indivisible.

“When I visited the occupation at St Paul’s Cathedral there was an incredible energy and even though I was there to camp out and stayed overnight, I didn’t sleep because there was so much happening,” says Young. “I wanted to capture that spirit and bring it to an event.”

The fun begins at 6pm this Saturday with the studio, which is owned and operated by artist studio group East Street Arts, playing host to artists from Yorkshire, London, Bristol, Liverpool and also to Chicago-based artist Nicole Garneau.

“We will have lots of volunteers and we will be there to lead people by the hand if they need or want us to,” says Young. “One of the works is a blood piece, which involves the artist piercing the skin. It’s a practice that happens all over the world, but we understand some people might find it difficult to engage with work like that.

“However, there is other, more comfortable work, like Mr Beaumont, a musicologist who is inviting people to bring their favourite piece of music to play and discuss with him in a room, with no audience.”

Given the diverse nature of the work on show, Indivisible are not calling the event a festival, but a “live art occupation”.

“When we were at university, we studied the movements of London and New York in the 60s, 70es and even into the 80s, but the spirit that made that sort of work seems to have disappeared. Staging an occupation like this is a way of trying to recapture that spirit.”

Indivisible, which received a £7,200 Arts Council grant to stage the 24-hour event, was initially planning on commissioning 24 different pieces of new work for the event, but received such an overwhelming number of applications, decided to commission and include 38 pieces.

Artists will take over the whole building and activities include a drag queen, dance, live music, sound installations, projection, creative writing and one-to-one performance.

The event comes at a time when West Yorkshire is already seeing a groundswell of fringe and underground art being created by smaller companies outside of the mainstream theatre spaces in the region, with venues like Bradford’s Theatre in The Mill linking with Leeds’s The Hub, The Stage and Carriageworks, to give work a much bigger platform.

Local artists taking part in the 24-hour occupation include Iranian-born Sara Zoltash, dancer Janice Keith and female drag queen Jenny Wilson as well as a number of recent graduates and current students of the Leeds Met course.

There are a number of pieces which run for the whole event with around four works happening at any one time. The Leeds branch of homeless charity Emmaus will be providing free food throughout and at Sunday lunch time a hot meal will be on offer. There will also be open access to the kitchen, for people to make hot drinks and toast, which is also attached to the crash zone where they can chill out and nap if needed. If audiences prefer they are welcome to dip in and out of the event rather than stay up all night.

The event runs from 6pm, February 25 to 6pm the following day.